Comfort Food Makes Chilling Cold Weather Better Lighten Up Your Favorites!

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The weatherman says this week is our best chance so far of some of that frozen precipitation! That means staying in, staying warm and enjoying your favorite wintertime comfort foods. The problem is that often our favorite warm creamy comfort foods are loaded with calories and fat, and remember spring is just around the corner!! Here are some traditional yummy recipes, but made just a little lighter so they will be a little better on the waistline!

Baked Mac & Cheese with Spinach

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons Panko
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 16-ounce or 10-ounce package frozen spinach, thawed (I use fresh whenever I can)
  • 1¾ cups low-fat milk, divided
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 8 ounces (2 cups) whole-wheat elbow macaroni, or penne

Directions

  1. Put a large pot of water on to boil. Preheat oven to 450° F. Coat an 8-inch-square (2-quart) baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Mix panko, oil and paprika in a small bowl. Place spinach in a fine-mesh strainer and press out excess moisture.
  3. Heat 1½ cups milk in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until steaming. Whisk remaining ¼ cup milk and flour in a small bowl until smooth; add to the hot milk and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce simmers and thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in Cheddar until melted. Stir in cottage cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  4. Cook pasta for 4 minutes, or until not quite tender. (It will continue to cook during baking.) Drain and add to the cheese sauce; mix well. Spread half the pasta mixture in the prepared baking dish. Spoon the spinach on top. Top with the remaining pasta; sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture.
  5. Bake the casserole until bubbly and golden, 25 to 30 minutes.

To make ahead prepare through Step 4. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator, if necessary, then bake for 35 to 45 minutes.

Serves 4. Each serving contains Calories 576, Fat 22 g, Cholesterol 69 mg, Carbohydrates 63 g, Protein 37 g, Fiber 9 g, Sodium 917 mg, Potassium 403 mg.

Mini Shepherd’s Pies with Winter Squash

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 12 ounces 93%-lean ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 6 ounces baby spinach, chopped
  • ¾ teaspoon salt, divided
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder, divided
  • 2 12-ounce packages frozen winter squash puree, thawed
  • ⅓ cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, stir in beef, flour and tomato paste, and cook, stirring, until the beef is mostly browned, about 3 minutes. Add broth, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the broth is the consistency of thick gravy, about 4 minutes. Stir in spinach, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon garlic powder; cook until the spinach is just wilted, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.
  3. Place squash in a fine-mesh sieve (or a good strainer) and gently press on it to extract excess liquid. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon garlic powder. Divide the meat mixture among four 10-ounce broiler-safe ramekins. Top each with about ½ cup of the squash. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet.
  4. Broil until heated through and bubbling around the edges, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and broil until it is just melted, about 3 minutes more.

You can make this recipe in a small baking dish if that works best for your family.

Serves 4. Each serving contains Calories 310, Fat 13 g, Cholesterol 70 g, Carbohydrates 26 g, Protein 29 g, Fiber 5 g, Sodium 708 mg, Potassium 421 mg.

Ranch Veggie Chicken Casserole

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium red or green bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • ½ cup whole-wheat flour or all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1½ cups diced fresh tomatoes
  • ½ cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 7-ounce can or two 4-ounce cans diced green chilies, drained
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 12 6-inch corn tortillas, cut in half, divided
  • 1 cup shredded Colby-Jack cheese, divided
  • ¼ cup sliced ripe black olives, divided

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F. Coat two 8-inch-square baking dishes with cooking spray.
  2. Place chicken in a large saucepan and add water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until just cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a clean cutting board. Dice when cool. (Here’s what I do, I bake a bag of chicken breast or chicken tenders at 350° F for about an hour to an hour and a half, that way I can use the chicken in more than just one recipe in a week).
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the mushroom liquid has evaporated, 7 to 9 minutes. Add bell pepper and cook, stirring, until just tender, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and chili powder; stir for 1 minute. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add broth and cook, stirring, until thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in tomatoes, sour cream, chilies, salt and the chicken.
  4. To assemble: Spread 1 cup filling in each prepared baking dish. Layer on 4 tortilla halves and top with 1 cup filling. Repeat 2 more layers of tortillas and filling, ending with the rest of the filling. Sprinkle cheese and olives on top.
  5. To serve: Bake until hot and bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. To freeze: Let unbaked casserole(s) cool to room temperature. Tightly wrap with heavy-duty foil (or freezer paper) and freeze. (To prevent foil from sticking to the cheese, coat with cooking spray first.) This recipe can be frozen prior to baking, thaw before baking.

Serves 4. Each serving contains Calories 356, Fat 13 g, Cholesterol 81 mg, Carbohydrates 29 g, Added Sugars 0 g, Protein 33 g, Fiber 5 g, Sodium 698 mg, Potassium 662.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 14-ounce cans vegetable broth, or reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 8 ounces broccoli (or broccoli) crowns, cut into 1-inch pieces, stems and florets separated
  • 1 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot and celery; cook, stirring often, until the onion and celery soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Add potato and garlic; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in flour, dry mustard and cayenne; cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes.
  2. Add broth and broccoli stems; bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Stir in florets; simmer, covered, until the broccoli is tender, about 10 minutes more. Transfer 2 cups of the chowder to a bowl and mash; return to the pan.
  3. Stir in Cheddar and sour cream; cook over medium heat, stirring, until the cheese is melted and the chowder is heated through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt.
  4. Alternate method; for those of you that know me, I am a big fan of the crock-pot. If you are too, throw all of the ingredients (except the cheese and sour cream) in a crock-pot, turn to high for about 4 hours (it is just easier), add cheese and sour cream a little before serving.

Serves 6. Each serving contains Calories 205, Fat 9 g, Cholesterol 21 mg, Carbohydrates 23 g, Protein 9 g, Fiber 4 g, Sodium 508 mg, Potassium 436 mg.